updated 2/16/2006 11:32:31 AM ET 2006-02-16T16:32:31

Guests: Lauren Lake, Susan Filan, Pamela Gorman, Bryan Howard, Brian Wice, Ron Christie, Bo Dietl, Arnold Fisher

DAN ABRAMS, HOST:  Coming up, breaking news, murder suspect Neil Entwistle is back in the United States. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS (voice-over):  The man accused of killing his wife and baby arrives in Massachusetts where he faces first-degree murder charges and will be arraigned tomorrow. 

And Vice President Cheney breaks his silence and takes the blame for shooting his friend.  Does that mean he could face legal blame as well? 

And around the country, legislators trying to force pregnant women to acknowledge their fetuses will feel pain before getting an abortion.  Is this just another way for abortion opponents to make it harder for a woman to get one? 

The program about justice starts now.  

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ABRAMS:  Hi everyone.  First up on the docket, Neil Entwistle suspected of murdering his wife and baby daughter is now back on American soil after being extradited from England. 

NBC‘s Lisa Daniels is outside the Hopkinton, Massachusetts Police Department where Entwistle is expected to arrive.  Lisa, what do we know? 

LISA DANIELS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Good evening, Dan.  We are expecting Neil Entwistle to be arriving here in the next hour.  About 20 minutes ago, the plane landed at Hanscom Air Force Base.  That‘s about an hour from where we are right now.  But with Boston traffic and the escort, you just don‘t know what time they are going to come. 

I do believe that we have video to show you.  This is really the first look that we‘re getting at Neil Entwistle since arriving back in the United States.  Again, he was shackled.  His hands appear to be shackled.  It‘s not clear whether his legs are shackled.  But he was surrounded by law enforcement, and he got into a state police car. 

Keep in mind this man is innocent until proven guilty.  But if you believe the prosecution, this is a man who was drowning in debt and shot a helpless 9-month-old baby, his own daughter, and then his wife.  Now most of us know what will happen next.  Once he arrives here, he will go inside the police station behind me.  And then you know what it is from TV. 

He‘ll be photographed.  He‘ll be fingerprinted.  He‘ll be asked a bunch of questions, his name, his Social Security, his date of birth.  And he‘ll probably be read his Miranda rights.  You can count on that.  The bigger question is will he be meeting with his attorney. 

We did learn that a man named Elliot Weinstein was assigned to him after Entwistle‘s family said they can‘t afford an attorney.  Now tomorrow afternoon at about 2:00 p.m., Entwistle will be arraigned at Framingham District Court.  That will be his first court appearance in the United States.  The arraignment means, as you know, Dan, that the judge or the clerk will formally read the rights against him, the charges against him, two counts of murder, one count of illegal possession of a firearm, one count of a legal possession of ammunition.

And then Entwistle will enter a plea, guilty or not guilty.  And, again, we already know that a lawyer has been assigned to him because he can‘t afford one.  But the most important step tomorrow, the part that we don‘t know about, is whether bail will be set.  You can count on the prosecution to say this man should be held without any bail.  He is a flight risk.  He has left the United States.  He can do it again. 

And you can expect the defense attorney to argue the exact opposite.  That this is a man who waived extradition, who fully cooperated with authorities and returned very peacefully and cooperatively by himself.  So it remains to be seen what the bail is. 

One other note, Dan, to tell you, he is extremely suicidal, at the danger level.  That‘s an exact quote from his friends.  So whether he is whisked away and undergoes a mental evaluation remains to be seen.

ABRAMS:  All right.

DANIELS:  Dan.

ABRAMS:  Lisa Daniels thanks very much.  Appreciate it. 

Joining me now former prosecutor and MSNBC legal analyst Susan Filan, who is at the Hopkinton Police Station as well, and Lauren Lake, criminal defense attorney joins us.  All right, so let‘s go over some of the challenges that each side are facing here. 

First of all, the defense has a lot of problems here.  Forensic evidence, the fact that his DNA is found on the gun grip, that Rachel‘s DNA is on the muzzle.  Computer evidence, searches—that he was apparently searching for escorts and searching on how to kill on the Internet.  Suspicious behavior, he‘s boarding a plane after finding the bodies, not—doesn‘t go to the funeral.  Inconsistent statements about exactly what he was doing.  So, Lauren Lake, the defense team has an uphill battle.

LAUREN LAKE, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Yes, Dan, you‘re right.  It‘s a tough one.  However, we still do have some things that are on our side.  For instance, the fact that that gun was fired after it was used in the murders allegedly, hey that‘s problematic for the prosecution, and let‘s just admit that.  That‘s potentially contaminated evidence.  We also have the crime scene, which we haven‘t talked about in a while.

ABRAMS:  Yes.

LAKE:  This crime scene it took them two days and two attempts to find the bodies.  Families, friends, and police were traipsing through that house looking for the bodies and could not find them.  So the defense does still have some things to hang its hat on.  But an uphill battle it is. 

ABRAMS:  Susan, have you gotten to talk to any of the officials there?  I mean look I‘ve got to believe that they do not view this as one of the tougher cases they‘ve had to prosecute.  But have you gotten to talk to anyone there? 

SUSAN FILAN, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: They‘re not really, as you can imagine Dan, going on the record with anything.  But I think there‘s a feeling here that it is indeed a very strong case.  It‘s a very quiet, very lovely community, one in which you would never imagine something as horrible as this to happen.  And while they are used to media because the marathon take place here...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

FILAN:  ... I don‘t think in terms of law enforcement they have seen anything like it in a long, long time. 

ABRAMS:  Right, but let‘s get back to the evidence here.  All right, let‘s talk about more of the inconsistency.  We are looking at a live picture, as you can see.  You know not since Martha Stewart was released from prison do I remember covering a police car with its flashing lights going from—anyway, but it‘s, you know look, it‘s—I‘m sort of watching it.  I can‘t stop. 

Anyway, so Entwistle is in that car.  He‘s being transported to the police station.  Let‘s talk about some of the problems, some of the inconsistent statements.  We‘ll start with number five here. 

This is his account to police.  And really what may have been sort of catching him in a lie.  He said he left the home in the family car and drove to his in-laws‘ home to get a gun from his father-in-law so he could kill himself, he is saying after he sees the bodies.  He said he couldn‘t get into the home so he drove to Logan Airport because he wanted to go to his parents in England.  Problem?  Police discovered the keys to his in-laws‘ home in his car at the airport. 

Lauren, explanation, please. 

LAKE:  Look, all I can say I‘ll keep it real, Dan, and say, hated it.  Hate that statement.  Oh, why, oh, why, did Entwistle have to blow the whistle on himself?  These are the times when you just ask your client, can you just be quiet?  That statement is problematic. 

It will have to be dealt with by the defense.  But trust me, as we have talked about many times, it‘s all about reasonable doubt.  And that statement is not the end all, a be all, and to this point, he has not actually confessed to the actual crime.  So the defense has got to get in there and start sprinkling around some reasonable doubt. 

ABRAMS:  “The Boston Herald” reporting today on some of Neil Entwistle‘s activities before all of this happened.  And I should you know warn you this is a little bit graphic for those of you listening as to what he was up to.  Susan, I‘m going to ask you about this. 

Neil Entwistle has been the registered owner of the S.R. Publications Web site since 2002 and apparently first attempted to set up the swingers‘ network in March 2003.  His sex network idea appears to have been scrapped in December 2003 when the site instead became a vehicle to sell his company‘s flagship product, the “Big Penis Manual”.  The site promised an all natural way for men to enlarge their penises through exercises that can be done privately at home without pills, pumps or surgery.

You know, Susan, which way does this cut?  I mean does it really matter that he was up to this?  Or is this just another example of his problems in business?

FILAN:  Well, I think this all goes to a motive that the state is going to want to produce at trial.  And while they don‘t have to prove motive to prove their case, jurors always want to know why would somebody do something like this.  He obviously was in financial difficulties.  This was not a winning business idea. 

And this adds up to the mounting, drowning debt that he and his family found themselves in.  They just moved into this home, $2,700 a month in rent, over $6,000 in furnishings and beds and mattresses.  He didn‘t have any money.  He was unemployed.  He was trying to keep this from his wife. 

His wife‘s parents thought he had some secret government job in England.  His own wife allegedly didn‘t understand what the dire extent of their financial circumstances was, so I think this is very helpful for a jury to try to understand how somebody could pull the trigger on their wife and their own 9-month-old baby...

ABRAMS:  Yes, but isn‘t that one of the problems...

FILAN:  ... but these are the charges.

ABRAMS:  Susan, isn‘t that one of the problems with the case, is the motive?  I mean the notion that he kills his wife and their baby because he‘s broke and he‘s frustrated about it.  I‘ll bet something else comes out, right? 

FILAN:  Oh, sure.  But this is enough.  I mean sometimes your ego gets in the way of your sanity.  And I‘m not saying he‘s going to forth an insanity defense, but he couldn‘t face the pickle that he found himself in.  Now why he didn‘t kill himself, why he chose to murder his wife and his daughter allegedly is something that the jurors are going to hold against him I‘m sure.

ABRAMS:  Yes.  What do you make of that, Lauren?

LAKE:  Dan, I disagree.  I think jurors will look at something like that and say I need more than that.  Going a little broke and then selling some weird manual on the Internet and having a business scheme does not a murderer make.  They‘ll be saying to themselves hey, this all isn‘t coming together.  We need to know more.  This guy must be crazy...

FILAN:  No, no, Dan...

LAKE:  ... lead into the legal insanity defense that the defense may decide to go for.  I don‘t think the prosecution has done enough yet in creating this motive.

FILAN:  Dan, motive isn‘t an element that they have to prove. It is something that is adding up to the circumstantial evidence against him. But there is enough direct evidence against him.  There‘s enough forensic evidence against him and there are his own statements against him.  So this is what I would call icing on the cake.  Window dressing.  It‘s stuff that jurors will be interested in.  But of course it‘s not going to make or break the case...

ABRAMS:  Right.

FILAN:  ... but it is important for motive.

ABRAMS:  All right.  Well Susan, say hello to Entwistle when he gets there for us.  Susan and Lauren Lake...

FILAN:  Of course.

ABRAMS:  ... thanks a lot.  Appreciate it.

LAKE:  Thank you.

FILAN:  My pleasure.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, around the country, legislators trying to force pregnant women to acknowledge that their fetus will feel pain before they can get an abortion.  Question:  Is this just another way for abortion opponents to make it harder for a woman to get one?

Plus, Vice President Dick Cheney speaks out about accidentally shooting his buddy on a hunting trip, says he takes full responsibility.  So could those words come back to haunt him in a court of law?  And was he drinking?

And later, before Neil Entwistle was charged with the murder of his wife and baby, he was only called a person of interest.  My “Closing Argument” tonight, why the term “person of interest” is not of interest to me. 

Your e-mails abramsreport@msnbc.com.  Please include your name and where you‘re writing from.  I respond at the end of the show.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Back with an interesting story coming out of Arizona.  But it‘s not the only place where legislators—they are doing it around the country—are on their way to passing a controversial bill restricting abortions. 

The bill—quote—“requires a doctor who will be performing an abortion on a woman who is at least 20 weeks pregnant to inform the woman that the unborn child has the physical structures necessary to experience pain.” 

They are required to say that.  But not all medical experts agree that fetuses feel pain at that point in a pregnancy if at all.  Still the Arizona bill passed the House 36-21 on Monday.  It goes to the Senate next.  Four other states, Arkansas, Georgia, Minnesota, Wisconsin have passed similar legislation, although Wisconsin‘s bill was recently vetoed by the governor. 

So the question, is this just a back-door effort to restrict abortions? Joining me now is the sponsor of the Fetal Pain Bill, Arizona Republican State Representative Pamela Gorman and president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Central and Northern Arizona Bryan Howard.  Thanks to both of you for coming on the program.

All right.  Representative Gorman, it does on its face seem to be just another effort to make it harder for a woman to get an abortion. 

PAMELA GORMAN ®, AZ STATE REP.:  Well, actually it doesn‘t make it harder at all.  There is no waiting period.  There is no scare tactics.  We don‘t make them do anything special.  No jumping through hoops. 

ABRAMS:  That‘s not a scare tactic...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  It‘s not a scare tactic to say to a woman who‘s about to get an abortion, hey, you‘ve got to sign a document that says you acknowledge that your fetus is going to feel pain?  That‘s not a scare tactic?

GORMAN:  Well, you could cal getting a shot for you know immunizations for your child a scare tactic under that argument.  You go to get your chicken pox vaccine and you have to sign a paper.  What we‘re saying is this good medical information.  Women have a right to know it.  The abortion doctor is the only people who come in contact with them all and it gives them a better choice—a better set of choices.

ABRAMS:  What about this from “The Journal of the American Medical Association”, August 2005?  Evidence regarding the capacity for fetal pain is limited, but indicates that fetal perception of pain is unlikely before the third trimester.

GORMAN:  Well actually, I‘m glad you brought that article up.  The JAMA article actually didn‘t do any new research and interesting about is what they did was survey a bunch of previous commentary.  In fact, the head author on this used to actually be a lawyer for NARAL, one of the other researchers runs one of the largest abortion clinics in San Francisco...

ABRAMS:  So the most...

GORMAN:  ... and in one year alone did 600 of these. 

ABRAMS:  All right, let‘s be clear.  So the most prominent journal, the medical—“The Journal of the American Medical Association” is simply publishing an article that should be completely dismissed?

GORMAN:  In my opinion...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

GORMAN:  ... yes.  I don‘t know what their editorial standards are, Dan.  I can‘t really say.  I can tell that you if you look at the research, there was no actual research done.  They didn‘t do any science. 

ABRAMS:  Mr. Howard, go ahead, you want to respond to all this?

BRYAN HOWARD, PLANNED PARENTHOOD OF ARIZONA:  Well, first of all, the article never purported to do original research.  The article was a survey of existing medical data.  And “The Journal of the American Medical Association” is the bible of best practice in medicine in our country.  There were five physicians involved. 

One of those physicians has experience in providing abortion.  To say that an abortion providing physician shouldn‘t be involved in that is like saying pilots shouldn‘t be involved in air safety.  What this proposed legislation does is make medical malpractice a part of the Arizona law. 

We know three things.  We know that general anesthesia carries severe risks, including stroke and death.  We know that the only practical way to administer anesthesia...

GORMAN:  Excuse me.  There is no requirement...

HOWARD:  Please...

GORMAN:  ... for general anesthesia.

HOWARD:  Please let me finish.  The only practical way...

GORMAN:  I‘m sorry.

HOWARD:  ... to administer anesthesia to a fetus is through general anesthesia and we know that the medical community, the preponderance of data says that fetuses can‘t feel anything before the 29th week of pregnancy.  So what we‘re doing...

(CROSSTALK)

GORMAN:  I have to stop you.  I‘m sorry, Bryan, but you‘re putting false information out and...

(CROSSTALK)

GORMAN:  Go ahead.  I‘m sorry. 

ABRAMS:  What‘s wrong?  I mean let‘s be specific.  What did he just say that‘s inaccurate?  Because that‘s exactly what “The Journal of the American Medical Association” reports.

GORMAN:  I understand that‘s what the journal article said.  But a lot of the research was flawed.  Besides no new research, there was slanted interpretation of some of the previous research.  Even the research they did look at, they slanted the response to it. 

ABRAMS:  Let me ask you...

GORMAN:  There was improper...

ABRAMS:  ... which medical journal...

GORMAN:  ... assumptions...

ABRAMS:  Wait.  Let me ask you.  Which medical journal are you relying on? 

I know in the bill—let me read the bill. 

It says the sensation of pain occurs through a complex process within the nerve system.  This is what doctors I think have to say, right, Representative? This is what the doctors would have to report.

The sensation is triggered by nerves, reacting to some stimulus.  The stimulus creates a signal, which travels by means of the nervous system to the spinal column.  It then travels up the spinal column to the thalamus, a part of the brain, and onward to the cerebral cortex where it is finally interpreted as a painful sensation.  It is agreed by most scientists that a fetus can feel pain during some portion of the pregnancy.

Which prominent medical journal are you relying on to draw that conclusion?

GORMAN:  Well, there‘s the “British Medical Journal”, which may not be from this country, but it‘s very well respected. 

ABRAMS:  That‘s—come on, that‘s a little bit of a reach.  I mean the same people who are saying we shouldn‘t be citing foreign law are suddenly citing British journals as opposed to “The Journal of the American Medical Association”? 

GORMAN:  You asked me for a reputable journal, so I gave you one. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  That‘s the best you can do? 

GORMAN:  But the important thing to remember is this is just information. 

ABRAMS:  That‘s the best you can do and you put it in this bill it is agreed by most scientists that a fetus can feel pain, and that‘s the best you can do? 

GORMAN:  There‘s a wide range of information that led to this model of legislation.  And important to remember, 77 percent of the people that have been surveyed in this country think women are entitled to this information, even if...

ABRAMS:  Wait.  Wait.  Wait.  Entitled...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Wait.  Wait...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  I‘m not going to let you get away with that.  Entitled to information is different from forcing doctors to say this is what happens as a medical fact before you can get an abortion. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  If you want to say that there should be pamphlets there that are available in places that lay out the debate about this issue, I have no problem with that at all.  Do you have a problem with that, Mr. Howard?  Would you have a problem with saying that any abortion provider has to provide or at least offer in their office somewhere a pamphlet that lays out the debate? 

HOWARD:  The legislation requires the physician to quote this information.  If she or he does not, they‘re at risk of losing their license.  Their—if in their medical best judgment this is inaccurate information, they will be practice—they will be engaged in medical malpractice.  And the interesting thing is that my lawyer colleagues tell me that representatives like Representative Gorman have absolutely no liability in this.  So if a patient has an unexpected outcome like a stroke, we can‘t hold the legislature accountable...

ABRAMS:  Yes, I know...

HOWARD:  Who is going to be held accountable? 

ABRAMS:  I got to tell you, of all of the concerns that I have about this, that‘s not certainly one of the top ones.  Representative Gorman, why don‘t you take the final word on this.

GORMAN:  Well, it‘s important to remember when we‘re talking about is giving women full disclosure on information.  The only point of contact that all women having an abortion have in common is the abortion clinics. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

GORMAN:  It makes sense to put it there...

ABRAMS:  All right.

GORMAN:  And I believe it gives one more choice.  It doesn‘t require the doctor to do anything but to tell them there‘s a chance and give them the option...

ABRAMS:  It requires...

GORMAN:  ... of administering anesthesia to the child. 

ABRAMS:  It requires them to tell them that the fetus will incur—will have pain.  Right...

GORMAN:  It requires them...

ABRAMS:  Right.

GORMAN:  ... to inform them...

ABRAMS:  Right.

GORMAN:  ... that they have the proper equipment in place to feel pain. 

ABRAMS:  Come on.  It says it requires the doctors to say the fetus will suffer pain.  Yes or no?

GORMAN:  It says—after the line that says it requires them to inform...

ABRAMS:  Yes, that‘s all I‘m saying...

GORMAN:  ... that the proper equipment is in place...

ABRAMS:  What I‘m saying is not incorrect...

GORMAN:  That with that equipment...

ABRAMS:  Yes.  OK.

GORMAN:  ... they would feel pain...

ABRAMS:  All right.  All right.  Fair enough.

GORMAN:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  All right.  All right.  Representative Gorman, thank you very much for coming on the program.  Appreciate it.  Bryan Howard...

GORMAN:  Thank you for having me.

ABRAMS:  ... appreciate it.

GORMAN:  Thank you. 

ABRAMS:  We...

HOWARD:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  ... want to report on that breaking news.  Neil Entwistle has just arrived at the police department there in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, and there‘s where Lisa Daniels is.

Lisa, what do we know?

DANIELS:  Yes, Dan, he just arrived in a motorcade, and we saw the police bring him in.  Just a brief glimpse of him, Dan.  He was in the back of a state trooper car.  He is inside now.  He‘s going to be booked, processed, fingerprints, photographs, date of birth, name, Social Security, the usual.  He‘ll be read his Miranda rights. 

And tomorrow is the first formal appearance he‘ll have in a U.S.  courtroom.  He will face arraignment.  He will be read the charges.  He will enter a plea and then bail will be set.  But, yes, Dan, once again, the motorcade just arrived. 

Neil Entwistle in the back of the car.  And, again, we just got like five seconds of a glance at him.  We couldn‘t tell you anything. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

DANIELS:  We just saw his silhouette, his profile.  But he is inside the Hopkinton Police Station right now being processed—Dan.

ABRAMS:  Lisa Daniels, thanks very much once again.

Coming up, Vice President Cheney finally speaks out after Saturday‘s hunting accident.  He takes the blame, he says, for the incident.  OK.  So could that come back to haunt him later in a court of law? 

And they‘ve suffered serious, horrible injuries in the line of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.  And the Fallen Heroes Fund wants to build them a new rehab center.  We‘re going to devote some time to this great cause tonight. 

And our continuing series, “Manhunt: Sex Offenders on the Loose”, our effort to find missing sex offenders before they strike.  Our search today is in Missouri.

Authorities are trying to locate Franklin Nixon.  He‘s 51, six-two, 185, was convicted of lewd and lascivious acts with a child under the age of 14, has not registered with the state.

If you‘ve got any information on his whereabouts, Missouri Greene County Sheriff‘s Department wants to hear from you, 417-868-4040. 

Be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We‘re back.  Vice President Cheney breaks his silence finally four days after accidentally shooting his hunting buddy, Harry Whittington.  The vice president took the blame in an interview with Brit Hume on FOX News channel.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  It was not Harry‘s fault.  You can‘t blame anybody else.  I‘m the guy who pulled the trigger and shot my friend.  And to say that‘s a day I‘ll never forget. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  He went on described the moments immediately following the incident.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY:  The image of him falling is something I‘ll never ever be able to get out of my mind.  I fired, and there‘s Harry falling.  And it was—I would have to say one of the worst days of my life at that moment. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  When asked about the delay in reporting the accident, Cheney said he decided that Katharine Armstrong, owner of the ranch where they were hunting and the witness to the accident, should break the news because he says it happened on her property and she had a friend who was a reporter at a local paper. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY:  I thought that it made good sense because you could get as accurate a story as possible from somebody who knew and understood hunting, and then it would immediately go up to the wires and be posted on the Web site, which is the way it went out, and I thought that was the right call. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What do you think now? 

CHENEY:  Well I still do. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  The vice president did admit to having a beer hours before the hunting expedition, but said it did not play a role in this and said that he—and no one else in the party actually had anything to drink before they went hunting. 

Joining me now, Ron Christie, former deputy assistant to Vice President Cheney and author of “Black in White House”, criminal defense attorney Brian Wice, and hunter and gun owner Tucker Carlson, host of MSNBC‘s “SITUATION WITH TUCKER CARLSON”, who we just wanted to make sure we had all perspectives. 

All right, Brian, strictly legal question first.  He is taking the blame. 

Criminally, civilly, can that come back to haunt him? 

BRIAN WICE, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY:  Well, I guess it depends.  Certainly at the civil level, absolutely.  Regardless of whether or not the Kenedy County District Attorney‘s Office decides to file criminal charges, which is probably unlikely.  But in the civil arena, what he said today on the air to FOX News certainly could come back to haunt him, Dan.

ABRAMS:  In what way?  I mean he‘s basically saying—I mean look, if you really think about what he‘s saying, he is just saying it‘s my trigger.  I pulled it.  Therefore I take the blame.  But he‘s not saying, I was at fault.

WICE:  No, but what he did say, Dan, was that you can‘t blame Harry, which...

ABRAMS:  Right.

WICE:  ... to my estimation, even as a criminal and not a civil litigator, underscores the fact that it wasn‘t as if Harry was negligent, it wasn‘t as if it was Harry‘s fault.  And that again raises the question about the nature and the scope of the investigation and whether there is something beyond mere civil liability. 

ABRAMS:  All right, before I talk about this issue of the beer and possible drinking, I want to ask Tucker about that, Ron, this notion that somehow they plotted this out so the ranch owner would call the local paper so they could get the accurate story out there, come on. 

RON CHRISTIE, FMR. DEP. ASST. TO V.P. CHENEY:  Dan, I actually believe him on that. 

ABRAMS:  Really?

CHRISTIE:  Listen—yes, listen, the vice president was down in Texas for a private hunting weekend at a private residence.  Mrs. Armstrong was not only an eyewitness to the event that took place, but she was also someone who is very familiar with the Texas hunting and the game industry down there.  She called a local reporter. 

Remember, the vice president had said himself that his first concern, Dan, was to make sure that all of the accurate information was out there and that he wanted to ensure that the facts were gathered by some individuals and was reported by someone who had an understanding of hunting in that area because it was going to be picked up by the wires. 

ABRAMS:  Yes, but I don‘t know.  What do you make of that before I ask you about the hunting part?

TUCKER CARLSON, “THE SITUATION WITH TUCKER CARLSON”:  I don‘t know.  I mean you know the idea that he was hiding his drunkenness I think is probably unlikely.  Cheney does not have a reputation as a boozer.  I—so I guess I sort of buy it.  Cheney has contempt for the press.  And maybe on some level he knew that giving it to “The Times” caller would infuriate the networks and that was probably a plus in his view.

ABRAMS:  You don‘t mean he was actually drunk?  You mean the fact that...

CARLSON:  No, the theory is...

ABRAMS:  Right...

CARLSON:  ... we have a guy on tonight who will allege he was likely drunk.  I don‘t—you know—and the delay was so he wouldn‘t have to take a Breathalyzer.  I don‘t buy that.  I think it probably was had the benefit of needling the press and you know from his point of view that‘s a good thing.

ABRAMS:  Here‘s what he said about the issue of drinking.  I had a beer at lunch.  After lunch we take a break, got back to the ranch headquarters, then we took about an hour-long tour of the ranch with the ranch hand driving the vehicle looking at game.  We didn‘t go back into the field to hunt quail until sometime after 3:00.  The five of us who were in that party were together all afternoon.  Nobody was drinking.  Nobody was under the influence.

What do you make of that...

CARLSON:  I don‘t—you know as I just said, I don‘t think he was loaded, but there‘s no getting around the fact you‘re not supposed to do that...

ABRAMS:  You‘re not supposed to do what...

CARLSON:  You‘re not supposed to drink before you hunt, period.  And they are very uptight about it.  I have shot birds all my life.  I still do.  And every time you shoot (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the property owner gives typically even to his friends a lecture.  Drink all you want—there is a lot of drinking at these things, but it‘s afterward. 

You know drink all you want.  You may not drink before you shoot.  Period.  I see you drinking.  I smell it on you, I‘m going to take your gun away for two reasons.  One, you might end up shooting someone, and upland bird shooting is dangerous because you‘re walking.  It‘s like duck hunting.  You‘re not sitting in a fixed position shooting birds.

You‘re wandering.  You‘re shooting over dogs.  Birds pop up.  You get caught up in the birds and then your gun swings around.  There‘s potential for someone to get injured.  And two, if you do shoot someone accidentally and it does happen, you want to be able to say, conclusively, in a convincing way, alcohol had nothing to do with it. 

Having even one beer leaves open the question well maybe you were impaired and you don‘t want that.  So this is—I don‘t think he was loaded, but it is a—no getting around it—a big violation of accepted rules of hunting.

ABRAMS:  All right.  With that in mind, Brian, how does that come into play legally?

WICE:  I mean from a legal standpoint, Dan, it impacts the standard of care that‘s required from someone with a shotgun.  Listen, the vice president is an avid hunter.  He understands that you have to throttle the bottle when you go and you‘re hunting.  One of the things I really think that nobody really understands, particularly in light of the vice president‘s statement today, is how this could have happened. 

I mean look, this is broad daylight on a ranch in south Texas.  They are not on their bellies crawling through the mud in Nam with Charlie in the bush.  Rule one in the hunter‘s playbook as I understand it is you always have to have a clear line of sight before you pull the trigger.  And, again, I really think that if it was anybody but the vice president, perhaps he‘s not going to be treated with kid gloves. 

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  If you‘re answering—asking an honest question, I‘ll tell you exactly what happens because I‘ve seen it.  People get caught up in the bird.  The bird is flushed out you know from cover on the ground by the dog, flies up in the air, and then sometimes goes sideways or even down.  And you sight the bird, you lock in on the bird, you can‘t wait to shoot the bird, and the bird moves.  Meanwhile, you lose sight of what is around the bird and you wing up pointing at something you didn‘t mean to.  And if you‘re not paying attention, you can pull the trigger.

CHRISTIE:  Dan, the only point I was going to make is the vice president actually said earlier this afternoon in his interview with Mr.  Hume that in fact his friend, Mr. Whittington, was behind him in a gully. 

I don‘t know.  I just want to go back to the throttle the bottle question. 

I think Tucker is right. 

Obviously, you don‘t want to sit there and booze it up.  It‘s very dangerous to be walking around with shotguns.  But there has never been any sort of allegation or any specific commentary that the vice president had done anything wrong by having a beer.  Quite to the contrary. 

So much of this has been made into a big media circus I think.  There‘s a local reporter, Dan, Rebecca Cooper (ph), who has actually talked to the people down in Texas.  She spoke to the county attorney as of 4:00 this afternoon and that county attorney said that they did not believe that they were going to press any criminal charges. 

CARLSON:  But wait.  Let me just say—I‘m sorry Ron—he did do something wrong by having a beer.  I‘m not against alcohol or drinking.  I support it.  But the fact is, and you can ask anybody who shoots birds particularly in the way Cheney was shooting, shooting quail for instance, you‘re not supposed to drink before you shoot. 

Everybody knows it.  I‘m not saying he was drunk, but I am saying everybody who has done what he did on Saturday knows the rules.  No drinking, period.  And honestly, I was really surprised to learn he had that beer because I have never seen anybody do that before. 

CHRISTIE:  And Tucker I‘ll concede that point to you.  My point was really getting to the fact that a lot of folks in the media have said that the vice president, you know my goodness, was he acting in such a manner that he‘s going to be criminally charged or civilly charged...

ABRAMS:  Wait, Ron.  Are you saying that that‘s an illegitimate—I mean the vice president shot someone, OK?  When someone shoots someone the question people ask is what happens?  Is the person going to get charged or not? 

And it seems that in this case no one will get charged.  But the notion that the media shouldn‘t even be asking that question when the vice president shoots somebody, to me, seems absurd. 

CHRISTIE:  Well no, Dan, actually what I‘m saying to you is the fact of the matter is that the sheriff who was on the scene, who actually took a look at this, said that there was no reason to think that anything happened...

ABRAMS:  That‘s right.

CHRISTIE:  ... other than an accident.  The county attorney as of 4:00 today from a reporter here in town, Rebecca Cooper (ph), said that they did not have any intension of filing any criminal charges because this was an accident.  My point is it seems to me that the media is going crazy with this of should Cheney be charged. 

My only point to you, Dan, is given all of the facts that we have heard that the sheriff has seen, that the county attorney has seen down there where people consistently say that this was an accident and they don‘t believe charges are going to be filed, I think the media is going a little overboard saying should the vice president be charged.

ABRAMS:  Well.  Wait.  Wait.  You just did an evaluation of whether the vice president should be charged, and now you‘re telling us we shouldn‘t do that evaluation. 

CHRISTIE:  No, actually Dan what I‘m saying is I am responding to the media making all of this frenzy and I‘m actually giving an informed opinion...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

CHRISTIE:  ... from someone who has actually spoken to the county attorney...

ABRAMS:  I just think it‘s so disingenuous that people who are out there saying why is anyone talking about this?  Why is anyone discuss—the vice president shot someone...

CHRISTIE:  In an accident, Dan...

ABRAMS:  It sure seems like it was an accident.  There will probably be no criminal charges...

CHRISTIE:  Right.

ABRAMS:  There will probably be no civil case out of this.  There will probably be...

CHRISTIE:  Right.

ABRAMS:  ... no legal proceedings period.  But the fact remains the vice president shot someone. 

CHRISTIE:  Dan, he was involved in an accident.  I mean, my goodness...

ABRAMS:  I understand...

CHRISTIE:  ... this isn‘t like Aaron Burr, Alexander Hamilton...

(CROSSTALK)

CHRISTIE:  ... at the duel.

ABRAMS:  But Tucker, as a hunter, OK...

CARLSON:  Yes.

ABRAMS:  ... it‘s still a big deal, isn‘t it, when someone even accidentally shoots someone to the point where they‘re in the ICU...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  I‘m not saying...

CARLSON:  Pointing his gun at somebody is a big deal.  And not only is it a big deal, it‘s a social faux pas.  I mean it‘s considered very un-cool...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  It‘s considered un-cool...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON:  I‘m dead serious.  I‘m totally serious. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

CARLSON:  Nobody I know in the world is more uptight about gun safety than people who hunt, who use guns.  And it is considered unacceptable to level a gun at someone, much less pull a trigger.  And that‘s one of the reasons I feel sorry for Cheney. 

This is a man who was shooting a 28-gauge.  It‘s a very—for those that don‘t know it—it‘s a very small gun.  It‘s used by people who really know what they‘re doing.  This guy has a lot of experience hunting.  And I think it‘s even more humiliating for him to have done something like this. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

CARLSON:  It‘s taken really seriously. 

ABRAMS:  All right, just so I‘m clear on this.  I do not think he‘s going to be charged.  It sounds to me like I said last night on the show that there‘s probably nothing to charge him with based on what happened.  But we shall see.

Ron Christie, Brian Wice, and Tucker, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it.

WICE:  Thanks, Dan. 

ABRAMS:  Coming up, helping America‘s real heroes, the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund.  Our friend Bo Dietl helping to raise money.  We‘ll tell you all about this fantastic program coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, raising big bucks for America‘s heroes.  Coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Today we take some time out of the show to help support a really worthy cause.  The men and women fighting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are getting medical care beyond anything soldiers and other people involved could have expected in earlier wars.  Even so, many have suffered devastating injuries and wounds including 387 as of January who have lost limbs.

While the government is caring for them at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington and other hospitals, the nonprofit Intrepid Foundation is stepping in with the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund to create a new physical rehabilitation center as part of the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.  The foundation‘s goal to raise 45 million, all from private donations, to build a 60,000 square foot center. 

The patients, all veterans, who suffered—quote—“catastrophic disabilities”.  Construction on the center has already begun.  This is what it will look like when it‘s done. 

Bo Dietl, private eye, chairman of Bo Dietl and Associates, a friend of this show.  He‘s been helping to raise money for the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund.  And Arnold Fisher is the fund‘s honorary chairman.  Gentlemen, thanks very much for coming on the program. 

All right, Bo, look, there‘s a lot of charities out there.  There‘s a lot of reasons for people to give money.  Lay it out for us in Bo Dietl style why this one in particular is so important. 

BO DIETL, PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR:  You know we got the war in Iraq now.  A lot of the soldiers have body armor now.  We have very good body armor, but their limbs are being blown off.  We‘re having more and more amputees than we‘ve ever had before. 

This is now—this is for a reason.  This is not political.  I don‘t care if you want to be in Iraq or you don‘t want to be.  These kids are there fighting for us.  They are coming home.  And this is the least that we can do.  We could have rehabilitation so they can come back.  They could drive cars.

They could come back and they could go right back into the population, back to America.  These are our heroes and it‘s a shame that we don‘t have the facilities that we should have.  We have the facility over at Walter Reed, but it‘s not state of the art.  This is America.  We should have state of the art where we could help these kids come back to life. 

ABRAMS:  And Mr. Fisher, what is the answer to that as to why the federal government isn‘t paying for this? 

ARNOLD FISHER, INTREPID FALLEN HEROES FUND:  Well, because first of all, the federal government is our partner.  Remember, they gave us the five acres at Brooke Army Medical Center, number one.  And when we complete this center, they are going to take care of it.  They are going to man it.  They are going to take care of these young men and women who have lost arms and legs. 

But I must ask—I must correct one thing you‘ve said, and that‘s the word charity.  It raises the hair on the back of my neck.  This is not charity.  This is America‘s duty to take care of these kids.  And the government, well, we‘ll do it privately, we‘ve raised most of the money.  And we‘ll complete it by January of 2007.  And it will be done.  It will be done right and proper, and these kids will have what they really need. 

ABRAMS:  Just so people aren‘t confused though, we have the number up there on the screen for people to call.  We‘ve got the Web site address.  It‘s—the donation would be tax deductible, correct? 

FISHER:  Absolutely. 

ABRAMS:  OK.  Well that‘s what I meant by charity.  OK.  All right, Bo, let‘s talk about the state of the art.  I mean we‘re talking about creating a state of the art facility.  And it is amazing.  I mean some of what they can do now for even people who have lost limbs. 

DIETL:  You know you have all of these kids now.  You have some of them that are skiers.  They‘re running mile races.  It‘s remarkable about what the technology is there, which wasn‘t there years ago.  And we should be using that technology for these heroes coming home.  And, again, I was involved with a lot of fundraising, a lot of things. 

When I saw this, I said, my God.  I says this is something that is so close to my heart.  When you see these kids coming back like that.  And all they‘re doing is going over there and they think that they‘re defending us and the democracy that we‘re able to go out to a restaurant tonight and have a nice dinner because they are protecting us, and these kids are coming back.  We should be protecting them and taking care of these kids.  And we like the...

ABRAMS:  Yes.

DIETL:  ... $10 and the $25 donations.  We don‘t just need all corporate donations.  We like the little donations because we‘re building this hospital with American dollars.  And that‘s what it‘s all about.  The people of America are building this Brooke Army Medical Center facility, and that‘s what it‘s all about.  And I‘m very honored to be part of this. 

And Don Imus from his show has been a tremendous help for us.  And Richard (UNINTELLIGIBLE) these two guys single-handedly have raised tens of millions of dollars.  And all we‘re asking for is corporations and people out there, please, send your dollars.  Please help us finish the facility so we can have a facility state of the art to take care of these heroes coming home.

ABRAMS:  I‘m going to make a donation after the show.  Mr. Fisher, how much more money do you need? 

FISHER:  We need about two or three more million dollars.

ABRAMS:  You‘re close? 

FISHER:  We‘re close.  And, you know, we don‘t know after we collect it whether we‘ll need a little bit more.  But right now if I get two or $3 million, we‘ll complete it.  I‘m on the third floor now with the construction.  We started the two Fisher houses behind it, and this will be open. 

DIETL:  You know what the Fisher houses are, Dan?  The Fisher houses are where the families stay when their loved one is being rehabbed there.  There‘s a place for the family to stay.  That‘s the Fisher house.  And the Fisher family has been doing this all over the country.  It‘s so important, Dan, that we realize this is just for us to do...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Real quick, I guess the answer, Mr. Fisher, to the question of why isn‘t the federal government paying for it, is that sometimes the private community, the corporate community, individuals can help build things in a way that can be even better than the government can do. 

FISHER:  Absolutely. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

FISHER:  This will be done in one year. 

ABRAMS:  Yes.

FISHER:  And it will be done properly and it‘ll be done the best way it can be done and I‘ll guarantee it. 

ABRAMS:  All right.

DIETL:  Thank you, Dan.  Thank you for having us on.  It‘s very important that we spread the word. 

ABRAMS:  I‘m signing the check after the show.  Bo Dietl and Arnold Fisher, thanks a lot.  Appreciate it.

DIETL:  Thank you.

FISHER:  Thank you.

ABRAMS:  Coming up, Neil Entwistle isn‘t the first—quote—“person of interest” to end up in handcuffs.  In fact, almost all of them do.  Why don‘t police and prosecutors stop beating around the bush and call guys like Entwistle what they really are from the beginning?  Suspects?  It‘s my “Closing Argument”. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) 

ABRAMS:  My “Closing Argument”—the not so secret code used now by prosecutors around the country.  Instead of calling a suspect just that, he or she is now referred to only as a person of interest.  Is there really a difference?  The Miriam Webster‘s Dictionary defines suspect as—quote—

“a person suspected of a crime.”

Another definition reads to imagine one to be guilty or culpable on slight evidence or without proof.  OK.  How is that any different from a person of interest?  The authorities think the person may have had something to do with the crime, but don‘t have enough evidence to charge.  The latest example, Neil Entwistle was only called a person of interest until he was charged for the murders of his wife and 9-month-old baby.

Come on.  He was a suspect almost from the get-go.  The same day Entwistle was called a person of interest by the D.A., we now know he had already allegedly provide a fishy story to the authorities, one that didn‘t fit with much of the evidence, and he is the husband who fled the country.  Entwistle was a suspect. 

But it‘s become the norm.  Mark Hacking, later accused of killing his wife, Lori.  John Couey later charged with the murder of young Jessica Lunsford.  Ben Fawley charged with the murder of Virginia college student Taylor Behl.  Even Scott Peterson.  All were persons of interest.  Of course the reality is they were all suspects well before they were charged, so why the double talk? 

Well, some might say we don‘t want to face another situation like Richard Jewell, the security guard who many wrongly believed was involved in the 1996 Olympic Park bombing.  Guess what?  He was described by the FBI and consequently the medias as a person of interest.  I don‘t know how that really helps those who say the term person of interest is neutral.

He won lawsuits, got all sorts of formal apologies.  I certainly wouldn‘t want to be considered a person of interest in an investigation.  Imagine you‘re just a potential witness.  Sure it doesn‘t feel so neutral.  Police maintain that person of interest covers anybody they want to talk to.  And that in some cases a person of interest turns out to be of no interest. 

Yes, just like suspects.  Across the country, it now seems someone is only a suspect after the authorities have accused the person of a crime.  But that doesn‘t fit the definitions of suspect I‘ve seen.  It‘s just not accurate.  They know it.  We know it.  Everyone knows it.  They can keep using it, but please don‘t expect us to buy into it. 

Coming up, my “Closing Argument” yesterday I gave my true unvarnished opinion of Valentine‘s Day.  One of my viewers now says she will not set me up with her daughter as a result.

Your e-mails are next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  I‘ve had my say, now it‘s time for “Your Rebuttal”.  Last night in my “Closing Argument” I said I‘m a Valentine‘s Day scrooge.  I think we have given far too much value to this Hallmark holiday.  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) love bug. 

Janice writes, “I was not persuaded.  Women like chocolate, flowers, teddy bears and lingerie.  Men like sex.  Corporate America creates a pseudo-holiday that in theory satisfies both.”

From Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Stephen and Jean Sand, “We‘ve been married for 36 years and have never let special days dictate gift or card giving.”

From Tabernacle, New Jersey, Alice Miceli, “You men do need a reminder to remember a loved one on Valentine‘s Day.  To think I was going to fix you up with my daughter.  Your loss.”  Oh, Alice. 

Kim Buda from Greensboro, Maryland, “You‘re so right.  Valentine‘s Day has become another holiday that empties our pockets and leaves us still feeling empty.”

And finally Chris Bogden in Detroit, Michigan, “Bitter, party of one, your table is ready.”

That was a good one, Chris.  I assume you‘re referring to me.  That‘s funny. 

Your—abramsreport—one word -- @msnbc.com.  We go through them at the end of the show. 

“HARDBALL” with Chris Matthew up next.

END

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